Not Guilty As Charged

I keep hearing about Catholic guilt. What is it? Apparently it’s something Roman Catholics (even lapsed ones) can’t shake off. However, I have never had it. Even when I was in the thick of being RC. Perhaps I never was truly RC. Perhaps I was ‘doomed’ from the start to fail at it, and to leave the church.

But, is guilt good? It doesn’t seem to prevent anyone from doing ‘bad’ stuff, just makes them feel awfully bad before, during and after it. And then, it’s not like it stops them from repeating their mistakes either. So, as it’s not even a deterrent I see it as a hindrance and inconvenience and so, pretty useless.

catholic guilt trips

Guilt is simply the awareness of wrongdoing. If you are RC (or were), it seems like you are trained, from the cradle, to feel guilty about every damned thing. Apparently, the religion makes you feel like every human action is potentially sinful. Or fills you up with such an extreme sense of human imperfection that simply to ‘be’ is to feel guilty.

I confess to almighty God
And to you, my brothers and sisters,
That I have sinned through
My own fault,
In my thoughts and in my words,
In what I have done,
And in what I have failed to do;
And I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
All the Angels and Saints,
And you, my brothers and sisters,
To pray for me to the Lord, our God.

Above is the Penitential Rite, which is said at the beginning of the Holy Mass, after the Priest and the congregation greet one another. It’s a confession of guilt — pretty much a declaration of a permanent state of sin, in thoughts and words, through what one has done and what one hasn’t done — and a request for Mary, the angels, saints, the priest and the congregation to pray to God for forgiveness, for you.

Back when I was still attending mass, that was the prayer, but there has been an extra line for some years now (if I’m not mistaken, since November 2011) between the declaration of wrongdoing and the request for prayer: ‘Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault’.  Just in case, it wasn’t clear the first time, ‘It’s all my fault, dammit!’

(The Church obviously feels that to be penitent is not enough, everyone should be miserable to boot!)

I don’t subscribe to dwelling on one’s ‘sins’ or faults or whatever you want to call them (one blogger talks about how the line ‘through my fault etc’ ‘accentuates our sinfulness’). Deal with them as quickly as possible — fix them as best you can, accept them, embrace them even — and move on. Do not carry them around with you as they will make you drag your feet, or stumble or even give up altogether.

And it’s not like I know better, or am so good at living my best life. Perhaps I am just an amoral monster, or in denial. Whatever the case, guilt is not something I’ve ever chosen to engage with. The word is so negative — doesn’t it makes you want to give up before you even start?

To be human is to be ‘imperfect’, but imperfection is not bad, simply natural. I choose not to think of myself as sinful or flawed: I am just myself, a work in progress, and I am aware that my actions will sometimes cause problems for myself and others. Shit happens. We wipe it clean, it may happen again, or not.

No guilt. It’s a waste of time and energy. No guilt, only effort to try again.



Remembrance of Things Past

I have a new post up on my blog about my family. Feedback would be most welcome. Thanks.

Datuk Gong: Men of Great Importance

Datuk Kong Gat Lebuh Melayu
Datuk Gong shrine on Gat Lebuh Melayu in George Town, Penang.

I’ve seen them all my life, but never paid much attention to the little red ‘houses’ that sit in back alleys, under trees, or street corners around Malaysia. They are shrines to Datuk Gong, or Na Tuk Kong, guardian spirits of the land.Read More »

A Sign! A Sign!

Sister Mary Tey feels that there is a reason why we met as we did – the way she whatsapped me, out of the blue, just when I was thinking of contacting her was more than coincidence, but a chance for her to guide me back to god (my words, not hers).

I admit that I was ready to see it as a sign. I feel desperate enough to want to be convinced that I will be saved, and that Don and I will be fine if I pray. However, I don’t think it’s (me going to church and stopping being an atheist) is going to happen. I can’t believe. I don’t believe. I won’t go through the motions of believing on the off-chance that all will be well if I say and do the ‘right’ things.

Today she sent me a message containing a story that was supposed to inspire me, but it just made me angry. It was a story about a man whinging about having had the worst day and god telling him why each thing that went ‘wrong’ was actually god stopping something even worse happening. What the actual fuck? This story is supposed to inspire me? Let’s not even go there.


I get that if there were an all-knowing creator who had our best interest at heart, we wouldn’t be able to comprehend their logic and purpose, and lots of sucky things that happen in the world would just seem unfair and even plain dumb. I also get that it will take faith to accept the existence of this creator and that what they do is always best for the world. I don’t have that faith, why would I?

Once upon a time, I thought I did have ‘faith’, or what passed for it. I found it easy enough to just believe, but I didn’t have a reason to believe. I mean, I was told that this was what I should believe and so I did. Believing didn’t actually mean anything to me. It didn’t make me feel anything. What was I supposed to feel? Peace? Joy? I did love the rituals, and the pomp and ceremony of the mass, and the beauty and poetry of sacramentals, devotional articles, and non-liturgical prayers, but I still appreciate all those things, without having belief in god.

If I were to attend mass now I would just be annoyed by the modern liturgy, the sung parts sounding like the worst kinds of pop melodies. You need to believe to excuse such ugliness. I suppose you would need to be able to ignore the poor word choice and the trite tunes, and focus on their meaning. I couldn’t do that. I’m shallow that way.







Bones in a bag

Two men with a bag full of human bones were arrested in Ogun State, Nigeria.

One of the men confessed that the bones were his sister’s (she died four years ago) and that they had been exhumed for ‘money ritual purpose’ (read about it here).

Yeah, why not? Broke? Just dig up your mum’s femur, add a few chips off your dad’s patella and top it with a handful of teeth from random relatives. Mix it up with a pint of spit and utter some magical words (‘Abracadabra’ doesn’t actually work, try something more magical, like ‘Roger Sutton’) and (voila!) that’s your mortgage paid up and no need to sell your body.


But my favourite magic story out of Nigeria is the one about the car thief who changes into a goat, and gets arrested. I chose this Daily Mail article because it has the best headline. Also this quote from a police officer: ‘We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody.’

There is no follow-up story so I don’t know if the goat/car thief stood trial, or ended up in soup, or both.

Another horny criminal.